Micronesian Diary
Felicia R. Beardsley
Sacred Places
Yenasr Islet & Leluh

Kosrae State, FSM - August 1999

August 10, 1999

Yenasr Islet, feast house ramp
Yenasr Islet --- feast house ramp

We finished mapping Yenasr Island today. This was my last field project in Kosrae, because I return to Yap at the end of next week to direct an archaeological training for all of Micronesia.

Like last Thursday, the weather was a bit unsettled, but the tides were low enough in the morning (even high tide was expected to be quite low) to allow us to return to the island and complete the only section that remained unmapped. This was also the most important section because it contained the feast house and the retaining wall of another house foundation (this is the foundation that was occupied 70 to 100 years ago). There was a lot of brush covering these features, so we ended up cutting lines of sight only; if we had cut everything down, we would remove nearly all the low vegetation cover on the island. The bushes we were cutting, Berlin told me, were medicinal; by eating the flowers, one could protect oneself from black magic. Another tree we had to cut, but only a branch, was also a medicine tree. It has become rather rare, although it used to grow all over Leluh. Nena says it no longer grows there because of all the people who now live on the island and who no longer believe in the old ways; so the spirits removed the trees. Today, it was just Berlin, Nena and I. We went about our business and got everything done within a couple of hours, just before the rains came and stayed.

Yenasr feast house ramp
Yenasr feast house ramp

Yenasr feast house
Yenasr feast house

The island is heavily eroded on the ocean side. In 1984, Berlin told me, he had been part of a crew that completed a "transit" map of the island, which only mapped the perimeter and none of the internal features; right after that, they immediately began work on rebuilding the oceanside wall of the artificial extension of the island. The wall is still present, but all the efforts to protect the interior coral pavement were less successful. Today, large gaps remain in the paving, where the daily tides have worked the corals out and away from the pavement. I spoke with one of the coastal erosion experts who said that the only way to really stem erosion on Yenasr was through continual maintenance, and that is probably what was done when Yenasr was fully occupied and used during the days of the paramountcy.

The house foundation below is the retaining wall of one of the two more recent houses. This one was occupied 70 to 100 years ago.

Yenasr house foundation

Below is a view toward the original prehistoric house foundation. You cannot, unfortunately, see the foundation; it is just more coral on top of coral, and in the image it all blends together. It is located toward the center rear of the photo, on the far raised portion of the island.

View toward original prehistoric house foundation

The seka stone was a surprise; it was hidden under all the vegetation on the feast house.

Yenasr seka stone
Yenasr seka stone

Yenasr map
Yenasr Islet, Leluh
We produced our map in record time

August 11, 1999

Kosrae potholesHave I ever told you about the roads here? They are terrible; filled with potholes everywhere, and some so deep you have to drive really slow just to protect your wheels. There is no escaping them either. The Public Works department is busy every day filling the potholes with gravel on a section of road, but with the passing traffic and near-daily rains, that fill generally gets washed out and the hole deepens. As a consequence, the speed limit around the island is 25 mph. You could say that in driving there are only two speeds: dirt road and paved road. In driving the office van, it is a rare day that I actually get into third gear, and that is only for a short segment of newly paved road in Utwe.

People try to avoid the potholes. They weave down the road driving from one side to the other; you would almost think everyone driving was intoxicated. But they are not; they are only trying to find the fewest and most shallow holes in the road.

August 14, 1999

Leluh from the south
Leluh from the south

Ginger
Ginger
The light was just right at the end of the day to return to the Leluh Ruins and attempt more photographs. I started my stay in Kosrae with a visit to Leluh, and now, nearly four months later, I am ending it with another walk through the Ruins. Next week I am going to be busy preparing for my departure, packing, making sure the office has all the notes from our work, and preparing to gather the Walung materials and ship them back to the university, so that I can go through them in greater detail upon my return and write a more complete report, including research into coral fishhook industries in the Pacific.

Leluh canal
Leluh canal

Leluh, Foton Canal
Leluh, Foton Canal

Leluh, Foton Canal from corner
Leluh, Foton Canal from corner

Double breadfruit trees at Leluh
Double breadfruit trees at Leluh

Leluh wall
Leluh wall

Leluh wall --- wide view
Leluh wall --- wide view

Kinyier Fulat
Kinyeir Fulat

Kinyier Fulat --- close view
Kinyeir Fulat --- close view

Kinyeir Fulat --- opposite end
Kinyeir Fulat --- opposite end

Kinyeir Fulat --- wide
Kinyeir Fulat --- wide

It's hard to say goodbye to some places. There is so much to do, and not enough time or money to do it. Leluh, Menke, Walung --- stone remnants of past glories. How far did the light of this culutre radiate into the Western Pacific?

Next: Our Canoe


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